VieAMaggi.com

Real, raw, & relatable me. Enthusiastic food & lifestyle blogger living in Vancouver, BC!

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mello doughnuts

I am under the employment of an essential service. This means while majority of the folks are staying home safe, myself and my coworkers are continuing our day to day to ensure that the world is still running during this precarious time. We aren’t health care workers, but the service we provide ensures that they and everyone else has the resources they need to do what they have to.

So as a blend between my own want to try and my desire to treat them, I travelled down to Chinatown for some Mello doughnuts. I have seen a lot about them online, so figured now was a great time to grab a dozen to share.

Like everywhere else that is still open, seating has been removed to better illustrate that they are not open for dine in, but take out only. Two clerks in masks man the empty store front. One at the counter doling out the doughnuts, the other in the kitchen bringing out a fresh batch.

The counter is still stocked as this is the sort of item you order with your eyes. Their full assortment on display, a few with name cards for easy identification. Plus a few other treats like cookies and cakes to round out their offerings.

I ordered a dozen to fit perfectly in their largest box. One of each and doubles of their two signature stuffed doughnuts for 75 cent to a $1 more. These were the strawberry short cake with fresh cream and the tiramisu with plenty of coca powder. Naturally I didn’t try all of the doughnuts, but I made sure to get a taste of both of these. I liked their doughnuts because they weren’t overly sweet. The three that I had were well done. I prefer them over anything I can get from any fast food chains.

The tiramisu lacked the coffee flavour you’d expect. It reminded me more of a mild chocolate, with a chalky finish due to the powdery topping.

The strawberry was stuffed full with luscious cream and fresh fruit. And the coarse sugar topping added a nice sort of crunch to the fluffy doughy round.

The rest of the doughnuts weren’t stuffed. It got its flavour from the frosting and toppings. Flavours like lemon curd, cookies and cream, vanilla, and a dark chocolate. I tried the green tea. It was the last one left when I stopped by, and I can see why. A wonderfully bright doughnut with plenty of green tea flavour, gently sweetened. This was my favourite of the three for its flavour.

In short, Mello is a great way to grab yourself and others a treat. For the lovers of doughnuts when store bought and fast food ones don’t do. Be warned, they are a cashless store, so debit and credit only.

mello
223 E Pender St, Vancouver, BC V6A 2T9
(604) 423-3556

Liuyishou Hot Pot, virtual hot pot party

It has been a month since we all began staying at home, and all non essential businesses have shuttered down. All in order to slow down and possibly suppress the spread of Covid-19. As a result, the restaurant and hospitality industries, built on gathering people and socializing in person, have taken a major hit. Only now are we seeing more solutions and people supporting their favourites food stops, as there doesn’t seem to be a sign of this landscape changing any time soon. So it is uplifting to see restaurants that are open, and looking to different promotions and themes in order to entice diners to take out and eat at home.

This is especially the case for such social dining experience like hot pot. In an era that requires one to distance themselves and not share fluids or air, getting together and sharing a meal that gets cooked out of the same pot for all, seems like out of the question. However this popular Chinese hot pot chain has come up with a promotional special that takes all the work out of preparing a hot pot feast, while allowing yourself to enjoy with immediate family members or yourself. Our group would fall into the latter category, choosing to enjoy our hot pot individually, but together, virtual.

 

This is a recap of our delivery and hot pot dinner experience. To skip the reading, and learn some tips for a successful hot pot, visit the link below for my latest YouTube video.

With locations in Downtown Vancouver, Burnaby, and Richmond; Liuyishou has delivery covered. The corresponding location will prepare your meal and pack it all up to go for contactless delivery. They will leave the packages by your door for you to retrieve and sanitize at home. Each order includes a card that has the employee who prepared and packed your meal sign off on their well being; which includes an up to date temperature read. This is to help create peace of mind for those who are weary, but want to support such businesses with a delivery order.

And then, all you need is a heat source, like a portal propane stove, and if you don’t have that, your stove top would work in a pinch. You will also need their special split pot to enjoy two broths at once,  here they have you covered. With any order over $100 they throw one in for you, and it includes ladles that will help in the scooping process, once the food is cooked.

The set I enjoyed was the Hot pot combo for 2 for $78. A deal that was reduced from $118. To this I had add-ons, to better round out the meal: rice and a few sides, including fresh fruit for dessert.

The meal is set, but there are a few customizations that you can make. Like which of the two soup bases you want to start off with. I skipped the spicy one and the pork bone for something a little more mild to build on. The “Wild mushroom soup base” came with Chinese herbs. The enoki and sliced shiitake bobbing about was a nice bonus, in addition to the following ingredients that I would boil up with it. For good measure, I also ordered additional mushrooms to drop in and cook.

But my favourite of my two broths was the “Tomato soup base”. What looked like a spicy neon red serving was delicious in rich tomatoey flavour. It added its essence to everything it touched, whereas the other broth barely left a trace.

Worth noting is that, seeing as you are not dining in, you won’t get servers checking in on you, offering to top up your broth. So when doing this for yourself at home, the easiest solution is to add water when your broth boils down, or chicken stock if you have any handy.

Although regardless of the broth, your hot pot meat and vegetables do end up tasting like the sauce you dip them in to anyways. With the set you get your choice of two sauces. But here, I went a little overboard asking for a lot more. The sesame oil, sesame paste, chilli oil, minced garlic, green onion, cilantro, etc. A variety of mixes help to elongate your experience: changing the flavour as needed.

The combo includes 300g of sliced marinated beef and a 300g sliced Australian lamb. Both perfectly packed in the same curls that you would get when dining in. They definitely focus on presentation regardless of takeout, and the use of plastic disposable containers.

Especially seen with their “House special shrimp paste”. A pate of sorts that you ball up and add into the broth to boil up. It is set to look like a thumbs up shape, in honour of Liuyishou’s logo. This was one of my favourite ingredients, a great flavour and an enjoyable texture.

Speaking of texture, the next collection was the “Chongqing hot pot specialities” with House special beef tripe, Beef aorta, and Classic duck blood cube. Being a novice to all three, I was happy to have my virtual lunch mates walk me through the appropriate cooking time for each.

The tripe only needed 7 seconds, much like the thin slices of red meat. The result, a soft and rubbery chew. Although speaking from experience, over cooking it does not make it inedible. The aorta slices looked like calamari rings with a similar texture, a quick dip and it was ready to enjoy like cartilage. The duck blood cube was a little out there for me, a delicacy I couldn’t get my head around. It was a solid formed slice of blood, that didn’t melt after it was boiled. It retained its jello-like jiggle with a similar mouth feel. I have never had anything like it.

More familiar is the vegetable platter that included Potato slices. Potato purposely cut thick so that they wouldn’t disintegrate when left in boiling soup. I passed on the Crown daisy and Chinese cabbage, not enjoying the texture or the taste of wilted leafy greens. I also find that their flavour tends to dominate the broth once added. My favourite was the kelt knots, another great chew and texture to maw through.

On top of other hot pot fixings, you can also order off of Liuyishou’s appetizer menu. I highly recommend their fried rice, if you are like me and enjoy a starchy base with your meat and vegetable hot pot.

In terms of drinks, I highly recommend beer with your hot pot. Like with spicy foods and salty bar offerings, beer is great with dishes that have plenty of flavour. And if you are enjoying a glass, you can also order some edamame to pair with it as a munching snack; and way to catch your second wind. Hot pot is about eating slowly and enjoying the cooking process while socializing. Social distancing provides a challenge, but video conferencing your friends is a great solution.

For more details on how you can order this delicious set for a fun night in, visit the link below and check out our live hot pot party video!

Liuyishou
5507 Kingsway, Burnaby, BC V5H 2G3
(604) 559-9888
https://www.liuyishouna.com/

Easter Weekend Brunch with Water St. Cafe

As we move on to week 5 of quarantine, many popular restaurants are finding their footing in this uncertain times. They are starting to open and/or expand their limited take out menus. Doing what they can to stay afloat, and keeping what little staff they can employed.

Water St. Cafe is one such establishment. This Gastown restaurant is keeping things on the brighter side, offering a whimsical Easter brunch box for purchase. $50 feeds 2 across 3 dishes with both a meat and vegetarian option. Both with sausages, French toast, quiche, breakfast potatoes, fruit, croissant, and Easter candy. Online they encourage sharing with the loved ones you are social distancing with, or to be virtually had with others through Zoom meeting, FaceTime chat, or Skype.

The box set is only available for pick up this long weekend Friday April 10 to Monday April 13, and they are asking for all orders to be placed 24 hours in advance, through their website. You select your pick up time, and simply grab and go.

And for those who need the appropriate drink to have with brunch, Water St. Cafe is also offering a mimosa kit to add on. Choose between 3 options with size and quality of bubble differences, to mix with orange juice.

Each purchase is in support of this independently owned and family-run restaurant. (As taken from the press release) “Chef and Co-Owner, Alan Tse, and the team work with local suppliers to bring in the freshest of products to showcase the best that BC has to offer. They strive to achieve what every small restaurant ought to be: committed to quality, service and value that keeps our guests coming back time and time again. Lead by Host and Co-Owner Eli Brennan, they create a true guest connection every visit, and offer the best hospitality experience in Vancouver.”

The following is their “Meat Lovers Easter Brunch Box for 2!” Enjoyed as a picnic in the park. The only hitch it doesn’t come with cutlery and we forgot to check, so ended up eating with out hands.

But thankfully the “Mimosa Kit #3” came with actual glass flutes that were wrapped in a white cloth napkin that we could use when things got messy. Two bottles of Tropicana orange juice and a bottle of “Blue Mountain Brut Gold Label” to self pour and serve. The glassware was a nice added touch, it helped to elevate the setting and experience to where the food was.

 

The following is what is included in the brunch box to share. Packed individually, it is easy enough to take home and assemble, or in our case, nibble from one box to another.

Two local grilled Pork and Leek Sausages were a nice savoury start. Fragrantly spiced and juicy, it did get greasy sitting in the bottom of the box. It was only second to the four pieces of Ponzu glazed Pork Belly Bacon. The pork belly was caramelized with a nice sweet sauce, not too gristly, sumptuous when paired with a bite of potatoes.

The crispy potatoes came tossed with red and yellow peppers and purple cabbage. It was all dressed in lemon and fresh herbs. They offered a nice side and some freshness to the set. And breakfast isn’t the same without some solid potatoes. I just wish they were cut smaller for easier eating without cutlery or plates.

The asiago, parmesan, and free-run eggs quiche was cut into four slices. This was a fluffy omelette with plenty of eggy flavour, sitting on a flaky pastry crust. I really enjoyed this one.

And to help transition from savoury to sweet the fresh fruit salad was a nice break and palette refresher. A bunch of grapes sitting on cubes of honeydew, cantaloupe, and watermelon.

For a sweeter finish, the Water St. Cafe large Stuffed French Toast is best shared. A thick chunk of doughy and eggy bread filled with Guava infused mascarpone. I enjoyed it as is, but you can have it with the sides of lemon curd and berry compote they come with for some added sweetness.

And in case you were still hungry, you also get two in house-baked croissants. They were similar in flakiness to the quiche crust, with a wonderfully buttery taste.

And finally, to connect the “Meat Lovers Easter Brunch Box for 2!” They included some Easter grass with two boxes of chocolate eggs and bunnies from Lindt. Not hidden, but just as fun to eat.

In short this is such a great deal for only $50. You get so much. For those interested in ordering their own brunch, or maybe their turkey dinner to feed 1-20, visit the Water St Café’s link below.

https://www.exploretock.com/waterstcafe/

Water St. Café
300 Water St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1B6
(604) 689-2832
waterstreetcafe.ca

Hyundai Palisade review

The weekends look a lot different now with the landscape of covid-19 and the necessity to stay indoors. I however, am under the employment of an essential service, which forces me to continue my work at this time. Monday to Friday the daily grind with a weekend that you don’t necessarily look forward to, as there isn’t much to do. Luckily, the weather has been better with dry spells, the sun has been punctuating clouds; and it being BC with so much wilderness around, there is plenty to get up to if you have the right vehicle. And this week I did. I was equipped with the 2020 Hyundai Palisade, which I fully maximized my time with.

The 2020 Hyundai Palisade is equipped with the most up to date features in safety. Lane assist, alarms that warn you when anyone seated isn’t buckling up, and beeps that sound when you are moving too fast or too close to the vehicle or stationary obstacle in front of you. The SUV even takes over and moves the wheel for you, if you are approaching anything too close to any of your corners. All the above, the spaciousness of the cabin, and the proper hooks to strap in a car seat, makes this a great vehicle to bring the whole family out for the day, or the weekend. Equipped with 7 seats and all the conveniences built-in for each passenger. A USB port, cup holders, speakers, and temperature control. With all these modern comforts you needn’t be worried about a long drive. This was definitely the case for our 3 hour voyage in each direction, as we set off to Mission, BC for some off-roading.

The drive there was an easy one; lengthy, but with modes like comfort and sport to toggle through, an enjoyable one. And if gas prices weren’t in the 90 cent range, eco mode would be handy as well. But with time to kill and fuel to burn I enjoyed the cruise; stopping to take in green pastures, wild livestock, and snow capped mountains. The weather was even nice enough to open the sun roof and reveal the sky light. We relished all the warmth of the sun we could get; and when the clouds rolled over we stayed warm with individually controlled climate, heated seats (or cooling, for a more refreshing draft), and a heated wheel.

A stop at a corner store yielded small batch jerky and another at a gas station some energy drinks for the journey ahead. It is worth noting that trips like these may be hard without pit stops. Public places and gas stations that once yielded toilets for all, are now closed off for the safety and necessity of everyone. So be warned, you might need to do as I did, and look in the wild to do your business. Learning the hard way, I can prepared with a roll of bamboo toilet paper.

We would stop for scenic views, climbing down hills sides or traversing across ravines to explore. All while staying away from others and socially distancing in the process. And it looks like others and smaller families had the same idea in mind. We would pass other mud crusted SUV, quads, and dirt bikes that were looking to get away from larger crowds with a trip into the forest. A few families even set up camps, with a lot more pairings opting for a couple of chairs and a camp fire by the water side.

Most memorable of our sightings was the gnome we found bolted on to a tree at the side of the road. A find we spotted by chance when stopping to alleviate ourselves. A tiny capsule hung from it, and after unscrewing it we discovered the world of Geocaching. A treasure hunt of sorts, where you download an app and travel to local parks and nature sites to search for such spots. You uncover and sign each, leaving your mark, along with others who have found it before and then after you. Sadly we didn’t have a pen nor did we think to leave ours name. We simply left with a new hobby to pursue instead.

Our goal was to reach Stave Lake, a 8km drive over uneven terrain. Bumpy and rocky ground that included muddy pot holes, snow covered soil, over grown brush and moss, and road side waterfalls. But with the Hyundai Palisade’s terrain modes it made the ride a lot smoother. We would switch between the mud and sand modes to find the best for a less bumpy ride. But sadly we would never reach our destination. Due to the necessity to help the general public separate and stay distance, park boards have since barricaded up parking lots and closed off access to such sites. Our only solution was the explore the outskirts of the lake, getting as close as we could to the ledge and looking down and the turquoise waters we would never touch. Luckily with the Palisade’s easy handling, handy over head and rear view cameras, and side camera that broadcast on the dash when you signal either right or left; we were able to easily pull over and park at multiple clearings for the photos you are seeing throughout.

And thus ended our day trip. We didn’t get the outcome we desired, but now know of a good locale for future camping trips and a great spot to enjoy some water, sun, and fresh air in Mission. Thank you Hyundai for the safe and comfortable ride to and from.

#HyundaiPalisade
https://www.hyundaicanada.com/

House Special, take out with Perk Hero app

The hospitality and restaurant industry is much different than it was a mere month ago. Covid-19 and the necessity to stay indoors and distance yourself from others has transformed the way we work, play, and eat. And with no sign of it changing its trajectory any time soon, those in the food industry are looking for different ways to market their limited take out or delivery (through an app) business.

Today I was testing out what such platform. A new app that rewards you for taking out at your favourite restaurant, and paying through them. The premise, to earn rewards each time you do, and to redeem them for cash discounts on your next order.

“Perk Hero” markets themselves as a fun way to take out. You simply download and register the app. It is set up like a video game, with the ability to create your profile, customizing it with your own avatar. For every meal you purchase you collect both experience points and coins. The former allows you to level up, which leads to earning more coins to be put towards future meals. As a range, I earned 45 cents when I levelled up to level one. This landmark was achieved through setting up my profile and the initial first purchase, which they call “quests”, in following with the theme.

The app is fairly straight forward, although it did take me a couple of minutes to figure out how to use the credits I had towards my dinner. But paying is as easy as taking a photo (it literally is), and the app does the rest. The payment is taken on your credit card, which you register when you initially sign up.

My only feedback is that it is odd that you have to input your phone number each time you login, and access the app with the “secret code” they text you shortly after. And with them only recently launching, they have very little restaurants that you can choose from. And one barber shoppe, which predicts their growth and the direction in which they plan to take their platform. But the restaurants that they do have are notable stops: “Las Margaritas”, “Chickpea”, “Dunn”, and one of my favourite restaurants to recommend, “House Special”. So naturally the lattermost was the choice here.

We searched up “House Special’s” menu from off the restaurant’s website and ordered takeout by phone. Easy enough to do, but it would be nice to be able to do so through “Perk Hero”, making it a one stop app. Similarly, the phone number and address is listed for the restaurant, but clicking it doesn’t yield any results. Nonetheless we called ahead and made our choices for take out. And by the time we drove down to the restaurant our order was completed and packed up for us to take and go.

We ordered some of their staples, planning on enjoying it in the tailgate of the 2020 Hyundai Palisade. We chose based on what sounded good, and less on the ease of eating it in the back seat of a car. They are as follows.

Their spring rolls are vegan and gluten free. Crispy mung bean spring rolls served with nước chấm dipping sauce and a side of Vietnamese herbs. This delivered on expectations with a nice crunch. There was minimal grease, and they were well cut with the tangy and acidic fish sauce. Out of everything we had, this was the easiest to eat and share.

“Uncle Hing’s Chicken Wings” was a little more complicated to eat in the car, with you needing your bare hands to hold on to and eat clean their family recipe’s chicken wings and drumlets. The menu jokingly claims it “originates from the remote village of Houston, Texas”. Free range chicken wings prepared with spicy nước chấm. There was plenty of meat on bone. Flavourful, but I would have liked more sauce, something thick and sticky to coat each wing with.

We naturally ordered the “House Special Pho”, prepared with brisket, beef, beef balls, tripe, tendon, and rice noodles in their “famous” beef broth. Served with a baggie of sprouts and fresh herbs, like you would get in a bowl at your table. The serving was a beautifully light, yet full of beefy goodness; a good mix of textures from all the meat parts listed above. And should you need a bit more spice or zip, you can utilize either the container of chilli sauce or hoisin. The difficulty of tailgating here was the pouring of the soup over the noodles and sliced meats. Though I was happy to have so much extra broth to enjoy just as soup, when the noodles were long gone. Also worth noting is that there was an even ratio of noodle to all the meaty toppings over it.

Out of our two noodle orders, I much more preferred their “Bun Bo Hue” for its moderately spicy lemongrass pork and beef broth soup with pork belly, brisket, Vietnamese ham, thick vermicelli noodles, and Vietnamese coriander. I also preferred the thicker noodles use here, and the ability to slurp them down.

Reading salted egg yolk on the menu, I had to try the “Egg Yolk Pork Ribs & Rice”. Braised pork ribs & eggplant tossed in a salted duck egg yolk; served with rice and pickles. I could have used more egg yolk in the mix; and eggplant was better than the pork, which was on the dry side. Overall, both didn’t have enough flavour or sauce to eat with the bed of rice. But I did enjoy the side of pickles for balance and as a palette refresher.

And we also added two bottles of beers to the order, because it is now legal to take those to go to. We indulged in the Saigon Export, it pairing well with the food and all the fish sauce.

In conclusion, this was another great local restaurant to support during these uncertain times. One of my favourites to recommend for consistent service. So go out there and check them out, or revisit your favourites so that they will still be here when we all come out of this.

HOUSE SPECIAL
1269 Hamilton Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 6K3
778-379-2939
housespecial.ca

Juke Fried Chicken, take out

One of the main things I like about dining out is the drinking that often comes along with it. The ability to enjoy hand crafted cocktails at the bar, shaken and stirred by the city’s best bartenders. But with week 2 of quarantine going strong, and the mandatory closure of non-essential businesses in full effect; all restaurants are no longer allowing you the opportunity to dine in. So with only take out or delivery options available, sitting and sipping is out of the question. Therefore I was ecstatic to learn that “Juke” and their award wining bartender, are offering cocktail mixes to go. Almost everything you need to recreate one of their delicious drinks from the comfort of your own home. All you have to do is add ice and the specified liquor.

So today when looking for take out, I made “Juke” my choice, grabbing each of their available cocktail mixes and two entrees, for one me.

Ordering is quick and easy on their website. With photos and quick descriptions it is simple enough to scroll trough and make your selection with a tap. You register an account and payment is taken off your credit card. The following is what I picked up and took home for dinner.

Their signature chicken contains dairy and eggs, but gives you the option to customize it to avoid your specific allergen. Wheat allergy, shellfish, gluten, peanut, nut, fish, soy, seeds, or celiac; they have you covered. As for the chicken itself, enjoy it regular, spicy, as the feature in a burger, or across several combos. I would have it double fold, across two of their entrees.

“Chix & Waffles”. Seeing chicken and waffles I had to indulge. Here, the sweet Belgium waffles do contain gluten, but you can choose a gluten free version. Packed with two pieces of chicken: drum and thigh over two waffles, topped with jalapeños. All you have to do is drizzle the sweet and creamy sauce (kept on the side), over it. This isn’t your typically salty and sweet rendition, but something unique on to its own; much like their brand of chicken as a whole.

The “Juke Box Combo” is a quarter rack of pork ribs, 2 pieces of their original chicken, and your choice of side. For the latter, list of options makes choosing hard. Basically any of their sides are up for grabs. Small fries or dirty fries, asian peanut slaw, cornbread, corn chicken fritters, gravy, Brussel sprouts, or even their “big boy cookie” (a cornmeal cookie with white chocolate and salted caramel, for dessert). Wanting something from the vegetable category, to balance out all the starches and grease, I went for their deep friend Brussel sprouts. They were sauced up well, with the ones at the bottom soaking up most of it, getting soggy and salty in the process. It wasn’t the fresh vegetable I wanted, but another indulgence instead. As for the protein, the chicken was exactly like the serving above, juicy with a crispy skin. The ribs were a meaty looking slab with plenty of gristle and marinade, the rest of the meat was just a little on the dry side.

I like a good pickle so had to try “Juke’s fried pickle”, a collection of pickled vegetable, breaded and deep fried with a coating of cool ranch dust. I didn’t get the ranch seasoning so much, so would have liked a container of it in the side to self dip or shake over. Although, I didn’t miss it. Aside from their time in the fryer, the tangy pickles offered a nice break in everything else above.

As for the cocktails, each is served in a mason jar, that accounts for a portion of the cost. It is labelled with the ingredient list and directions on how to complete the cocktail. And a reminder that social distancing is important, but it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a drink.

The “Passion fruit gimlet” was a bold yellow with syrup and lime juice. To it you add 2oz of vodka, gin, or tequila and ice. You can either drink it in the mason jar it comes in, or transfer it to a different vessel for a more normalized experience.

The “Blue skies margarita” starts off with a nonalcoholic blue curaçao and lime juice, and to it you add 2oz of tequila and ice, before shaking and serving.

“Purple rain” has you adding 2oz of whiskey to the mix of pineapple juice, orgeat, and lime.

Overall this was definitely a more sumptuous meal. It left me wanting milk and a salad for balance and freshness. An order that was enough to feed me for 3 meals to come. Perfect for picnic and outdoor eating under the sun. Shame, we are discouraged from going out and the weather has not been great.

In short, support your favourite local small business to ensure you can enjoy them again in the future.

Water St. Café, take out

With the need to distance yourself socially, given the viral landscape we are currently living in, local restaurants are doing what they can to stay a float during these uncertain times. Many of them, such as “Water St. Cafe” are offering customers promotional pricing and deals. Like if you purchase a $50 “Water St. Cafe” gift card you get a second one at $15. It doesn’t need to be gifted. If you are planning on purchasing take out from them, you might as well buy a gift card to use as payment. The two together covers a full meal including appetizer, entree, and desert.

You can’t dine in, but you can still have the perfect romantic date night date by setting the mood for yourself, at home. And I can speak from experience, their food taste just as good out of biodegradable, cardboard take out boxes as it does from off of their dish ware served on their white clothed tables. Albeit, you don’t get their stunning view of the Gastown clock, but as a whole it can be whatever you make out of it.

Their full menu is available for take out or delivery via “Skip The Dishes” and “Uber Eats”. The following is what we ordered to celebrate the first day of spring. It is all about the little things right now, simple joys and any reason to be jovial. I suggest taking them all. Plus, indulging like this also supports local businesses like “Water St.” who have been serving Gastown for the last 32 years.

The “Water St. Salad” is a popular appetizer to share. A dressed bowl of Tuscan greens topped with heirloom tomatoes, goat cheese, half an avocado, pumpkin seeds, and cucumber; all coated in a honey lemon olive oil vinaigrette. A light start, better served as a side to accompany all the food before us.

The “West Coast crab cakes” are declared a “Water Street Cafe tradition” by the menu. A battered and deep fried round that includes Pacific rock crab and baby shrimp, served with preserve citrus, fennel, arugula, and a saffron aioli. Another light plate to wet the appetite with. A little bland as is, but ideal with the aioli that helps to brighten the serving up; along with a side of fennel for some crunch.

The “Short rib pappardelle” is one that never disappoints. It features 72 hour braised short rib raguet, confit garlic, fresh basil, and Asiago cheese. A comforting serving that fully satisfies with its sheets of thick el dente noodles, evenly coated in the sweeter tomato sauce and tender pulled meat. This is one I recommend.

The “Grilled wild bc salmon” was a great one to kick off spring with. Made with balsamic and honey pickled blueberries, and served with pan roasted potatoes. A flavourful main that I would have liked best if the salmon was left a little more raw, for a more silken texture. Something with a lot more moisture to offer in contrast to the soften potatoes, crisp veggies, and juicy berries.

The “Braised beef short rib” was a stunning plate. Two generous pieces of sous vide Prince Edward Island beef topped one over the other, on a bed of herb crushed potato, crispy onions, and a pool of hoisin jus. Another comfortable main that gave you the flair of fine dining with the familiarity of a causal, non pretentious plate. Tender meat and fresh vegetables, tried and true.

And for dessert we had the “Lemon tart” with housemade lemon crude, apricot glaze, and berry coulis. This, my guest raved about.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
For delicious, classic staples that are dressy yet comfortable and familiar, look to “Water St. Cafe” for a meal that doesn’t disappoint. And doing so now with their spend $50 get $15 back giftcard promo adds great value to your take out. Don’t deny your cravings.

Water St. Café
300 Water St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1B6
(604) 689-2832
http://www.waterstreetcafe.ca/menus/

Heritage Asian Eatery, take out

Despite the need to distance and isolate, Vancouver food lovers are finding ways to support local businesses, while still enjoying their favourites restaurants. And thankfully the weather is cooperating. Today we were at “Heritage Asian Eatery’s” second location on West Broadway, where you could order from their entire menu for take out. And in part of the “Breaking Bread” initiative created by “SMC marketing”, they and other participating restaurants are offering special menu item at door crasher prices to attract customers in. Today we would take advantage of this.

In order to flatten the curve and diminish the spread of COVID-19 restaurants are no longer able to host dine in customers. Majority of them have shuttered their doors completely, but others like “Heritage” have taken to take out to make ends meet. And on the perfect day with sun and a park near by, you can make do with a picnic in a park. Continuing to practice social distancing as you, of course.

It is so odd to see “Heritage’s” open space seating area with share style tables completely void of people. You walk right up to their counter and place your order, reading off the blown up menu on your right. Barbecue meat options, bowls of noodles and/or rice, and plenty of small sides to share in between.

The daily, limited specials are printed off by the counter. We would order both the spring roll and the sprouts. At $2.25 per roll the “bbq spring rolls” were still a little pricy, but absolutely worth it. They were incredibly crispy with a wrapper that flakes off. It just needed a good blotting from all the oil that literally dripped down your fingers as you held it. Not to mention the additional grease from the sweet and fatty diced bbq pork filling inside. But taste and texture wise this was just aces.

The “five-spice brussel sprouts” were a great way to add a little vegetable to our outdoor feast. Although the seasoning could have been more evenly spread out. I got pieces that were too salty and others that needed more zip. The texture was slightly crispy, with the individual leaves that have fallen off the round sprout being my favourite. This was a lot for $6, although at the same time I would have been just as happy with 1/4 less for $4. Too much between two, overwhelming for one.

My guest was excited to see “Dan Dan” noodles offered, so we had to indulge with a bowl. However he was disappointed to learn that this rendition did not include the peanut butter sauce he associated with this mince meat noodle. He found the meat to be chalky and salty, from the starch that they used to thicken it, causing it to congeal quick. I on the other hand loved it just fine for the thick saucy udon noodles that you slurp up greedily. I also liked the thicker, syrup-like sauce they were coated in. This too was on the saltier side, but paired with the sprouts it was the perfect balance of freshness for such a dense and rich dish.

But the rice bowl is the one we both raved about. We ordered the one topped with pork belly seasoned in five spice. The thick cuts of belly were a little more fattier than I’d like it to be. However, the bed of rice, raw side salad, smashed radish, runny egg, and crispy fried topping helped to cut into some of its gristle. Each bite is best taken with a little bit for everything. So good that I want to grab more take out from them to try the chicken, duck, and even vegetarian eggplant and shiitake versions as well.

For dessert I highly recommend their “Salted egg bun”. A white bun deep fried to golden brown perfection, and filled generously with a liquid salted egg yolk core. It is best to eat this while it is still warm and toasty, but be warned things can get messy if you are unprepared for what can spill out with the initial bite. This happened to be the case for my guest, who despite ruining his shirt, joyfully declared he would come back just for more of them.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
The food travels well, everything was satisfying as a whole, and the specials are worth exploring. I would highly recommend their modernized, Chinese comfort food for your take out needs. Don’t deny your cravings.

Heritage Asian Eatery
382 W Broadway, Vancouver, BC V5Y 1R2
(604) 559-6058
https://www.eatheritage.ca/

Kisso Sushi & Ramen, take out

With the announced mandatory closure of all restaurants for dine in services, take out is the only way to go. So when looking for a bite in Port Coquitlam we found ourselves at the newer restaurant, “Kisso”. Sadly, they were spending their grand opening avoiding people. However, with the nicer weather they still had guests coming in to try their sushi or ramen offerings. Grabbing a takeout menu from the door, and placing their order at the counter within, and waiting for it to be wrapped up to go.

Their list of offerings is pretty substantial. Several pages to flip through, and without photos it made the ordering process challenging for the indecisive. More complicated with descriptions of what topped the roll, what was outside of it, and what you could find inside.

We ended up choosing the “Tiger roll” for its name. “Sauce: Unami & honey ginger. In: 2 pieces prawn tempura, pineapple, and crab meat. Out: BBQ unagi, salmon, cooked ebi, green onions, and sesame.” Sadly it didn’t survive the travel. What ended up before us was a saucy pile of ingredients and rice that still tasted just as good. Enough salty and sweet flavouring to mask everything else, and has you still going back for another piece.

We also took advantage of their verbally advertised daily special of 2 rolls for $5.99. You can either have it two California rolls or two yam tempura rolls, or one of each. We did the later to be able to taste and compare their base rolls, with other sushi restaurants we have been to. The California roll was pretty standard creamy and sweet artificial crab meat, that could have used more avocado or maybe some cucumber for freshness. And the rice was a little hard.

There was a lot of yam in the tempura roll and nothing else. Here, it would have been nice to break all the starches apart with something fresh and crispy. Everything else was pretty much as you expected.

For something a tad more fancy we got the “softshell crab roll”. This was my favourite of the lot. This was not only visually interesting with the neon red fish roe accent, but stuffed full of tempura-ed crab, lettuce, and cucumber. A little dab of soy sauce and you are good to pop everything into your mouth.

Overall, there is something about not dining in that has you dropping your expectations. Food matters less and the setting more. And either way the latter will be casual, and the food you order more likely to match. This was definitely the case when it came to our sushi lunch today.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I wouldn’t go out of my way for sushi I can find anywhere else, but I wouldn’t be apposed to trying their take on ramen if I am ever back in the area. I am glad we supported another local business trying to transition through this challenging time for the food and hospitality industry. Don’t deny your cravings.

Kisso Sushi & Ramen
1475 Prairie Ave B109, Port Coquitlam, BC V3B 1T3
(604) 461-0442

Farina a Legna, brunch

With all that is going on with COVID-19 restaurants and the hospitality industry are doing their best in these times to stay a float. Remaining open and making money, without being able to pay their staff or serve a gathering of customers in their physical restaurants. Social distancing and staying at home is encouraged, but it doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy good food from your favourite establishments. An initiative to serve local business by serving customers from the comfort of their own homes. Spearheaded by local marketing company SMC, meant to support local businesses through an initiative called “breaking bread now”.

What started off as a noble attempt to continue to reassure the community with the highest of cleaning and hygiene standards, has now transformed into take out menus. And “Farina” is offering their food to go from Wednesday to Sunday, between 4-9pm. Wherein you are able to place your order via phone at 604-980-3300.

Here is their full messaging on the situation, as taken from their website.

IMPORTANT MESSAGE TO OUR VALUED GUESTS:

Due to the uncertain conditions in our community, we are taking measures above the requirements mandated by the government and have made the decision to close the dining rooms of all of our restaurants. The health and safety of our staff, customers and people in our community is our top priority.

IN THE MEANTIME – We are doing our best to help those who can’t get groceries, or want to avoid the crowds, by offering takeout friendly menus. We will keep you informed over social media as things progress and more details are available.

Please know that we are listening intently to the advice from government and health authorities and are taking all extra precautions in sanitation and cleanliness to ensure everything and everyone is safe. As things change we will keep you informed.

We thank you all for your patronage – friends, guests and staff, and we look forward to having you dine with us in person again on the other side of this.

I have yet to try this abbreviated take out menu, but I can speak to the skill of their chef and the quality of food through the limited run they had of their new brunch. Naturally, the following won’t be available, but I am choosing to still cover the full experience, as hope of things to return.

A couple of weeks back we were the first ones in for the launch of their new brunch menu, at their North Vancouver location. This would be the last restaurant I dined at for a while.

This Italian cafe has a causal charm to it. Checkered floors, wooden tables and chairs, green booths and furniture, and colourful posters set a modern tone. The menu takes inspiration from their wood oven, which is the heart of their kitchen. All dishes were designed to be shared family-style, with a selection of antipasti, risotto, pasta, and pizza.

The following is what we had on that day that now feels so long, long ago.

They have a bar/pastry counter right up front, when you enter. It tempts and teases for those who find themselves waiting on one of the benches in the foyer, across from it. From behind a glass showcase you can pick and chose your sweet treat. All great on their own, but better paired with any of their speciality coffees.

We sampled from a platter that included a chocolate and nut brownie, a blueberry cake, a flaky croissant, and a jam tart. The chocolate brownie was dense, not too sweet, with a surprise crunch from the bits of nuts that you find hidden within. The blueberry was your typical coffee cake. A mild flavour with a dryer texture, ideal for nibbling on with a side of coffee that you can use to moisten the slice. I liked the butteriness of the tart, along with its maple accented filling and shortbread crust. It was extra cute with the pastry stars on top of thin jam layer. But out of the four, the croissant was my favourite. Its shell was crispy layers that flaked off to reveal a soft cakey centre. A centre that was spongy with a sweet orange and almond flavour, punctuated by the sweetness of cinnamon and sugar. I would come back just to take this out.

I am not a coffee drinker, but I appreciate the way they present theirs. Fluffy foam tops, dainty espressos with perfect milk drawn hearts, and even a dessert option that offers a shot of espresso with custard cream.

The latter was just as much a dessert as it was a pick me up. One that I recommend, even as a non-avid coffee drinker. This one isn’t on regular menu, you only get it with a special secret menu request. You fold whipped custard into thick coffee, and gobble it all up with a spoon. It has a similar sensation to tiramisu.

For something a lot more boozier, order one of their mimosas made with fresh squeezed orange juice, or the classic citrus diced aperol spritz. Both a served in glasses with an additional bottle on the side, for an at the table refill.

Even during brunch their wood fire pizza is fully utilized. One of their thin crust pizza becomes more breakfast friendly with the addition of a sunny side up egg at its centre. This is aptly named the “breakfast pizza” with white sauce, pancetta and a soft egg. The crust had a great stone baked crunch to it. It was delightful as is, and given more panache with the a sprinkle of either their own chilli or oregano infused olive oil.

For the vegetarians you can get it without the pork, and instead plenty of mushrooms for an earthy mouthful. Both are equally delicious and worth trying.

One of my favourite dishes was their “Italian Benny” featuring house made focaccia. It is topped with a pomodoro sauce, two perfectly poached eggs, and parmigiano reggiano. And served with a evenly dressed side salad of arugula and crispy polenta. The tang of the saucy tomato was best exemplified by the herbaceous, spongy bread. This was a great take on a classic that I found myself preferring to the English muffin Benny; it is all in the bread. And its side of polenta was no slough either, it was light and almost eggy with a delicious mix of Italian seasonings. For a bit of freshness look to bites of peppery greens in between. The gluten free polenta is a great substitution that didn’t have me missing the typical breakfast accompaniment of hash browns.

And what is Italian food without pasta? At “Farina” there are 2 options available for breakfast, both are worth exploring. Featuring perfectly done noodles that is not only fun to chew through, but overall highly satisfying as well. The “pesto genovese” was a vegan option that doesn’t leave you missing meat. Basil pesto, roasted garlic, pine nuts, and parmigiano reggiano. Fragrant and herbaceous with a most enjoyable, springy chew. Writing about it now makes me wish I had a bowl before me.

This was only second to the “carbonara” pasta with guanciale, egg yolk, pecorino Romano, and black pepper. A sumptuous serving of el dente noodles that are made decadently luscious with thick cream and runny yolk. Silken, creamy, and peppery; beautifully done. So good you keep wanting to wrap your mouth around it. Fun to slurp and toss between your tongue and teeth.

Another vegan and gluten free option is the “mushroom frittata” topped with pesto and parmigiano reggiano. Served with crispy polenta and fresh arugula. It is basically a mushroom omelette. It had a light egginess to it, with the great texture of squishy mushrooms to gnaw through. Good, but bland by comparison to everything else before and after.

For a little more of anything, there are sides you can add to perk up any serving. We sampled the thick cut, salty guanciale bacon and their red wine fennel sausage. Both salty as is, but added a nice heartiness to our meal over all.

Moving on to sweet breakfast offerings, everyone was enamoured by the “Nutella toast”. It featured their own house made chocolate and hazelnut chocolate spread, topped with roasted banana jam, vanilla whipped ricotta, fresh berries, and toasted hazelnut. This was a gourmet, grown up version of Nutella that wasn’t too sweet, it allowed all the other toppings to have their moment on the spongy, cake-like bread. The bread was also slightly salty, well highlighting the tart fruit, and airy creams. I am not a fan of sweet things, but did appreciate this.

It was recommend that we end with the pannettone as the sweetest of all the plates. Not enough as a solo serving, but great as a dessert you don’t want to share. “Zabaglione”, an airy and sweet pannettone with sweet custard to dip into and fresh fruit to enjoy with.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I was floored by the consistency and quality of everything we had at brunch. There was nothing major that I didn’t like or anything that I would want to change. When they reopen, I highly suggest making them one of our first brunch destinations, as you will not regret it. I can still remember the flavours of everything we had clearly, which made me want to try each menu during all their seatings, and now their take out. Don’t deny your cravings.

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